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article imageReview: ‘Collaborator’ could have used fewer hands in the pot Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 5, 2013 in Entertainment
In ‘Collaborator’, a playwright whose marriage and career are collapsing around him has a volatile night to remember with his former neighbor who is now an ex-con. It’s available on DVD March 5.
Though apparently written for the screen by writer/director/star Martin Donovan, Collaborator has the feel of a two-man stage production expanded for the big screen. And on some level, it may have actually worked better as a play.
Robert Longfellow (Martin Donovan) is a famous playwright who can't seem to catch a break. His recent Broadway play was met with horrible reviews and his marriage is being tested as an old flame (Olivia Williams) re-enters his life during this moment of weakness. Retreating to his childhood home to visit his mother (Katherine Helmond), Robert crosses paths with his childhood neighbour, Gus (David Morse). A right-wing, ex-con who still lives with his mother, Gus is Robert's polar opposite in every way. When Gus holds Robert hostage at gunpoint during a drunken reunion gone terribly wrong, the drama unfolds as social status, celebrity and the imminent threat of violence converge.
When eventually confined to a single space, the film relies on the competency of the actors to carry the narrative forward. Even though it occasionally cuts to external locations or connects the two men to other characters by phone, it is up to Donovan and Morse to make the picture work – and they're quite successful in this endeavour. Both actors have been generally regulated to secondary roles throughout their careers, but here they seize the opportunity to show they too can be leading men in serious situations.
The events leading up to the hostage taking are mostly insignificant in comparison. They’re meant to establish Robert’s character, but the narrative could have equally thrived without it. This takes us back to the earlier comment about it working better as a two-man stage play. Cormac McCarthy’s play, The Sunset Limited, is a brilliant example of an adaptation of a two-man performance that succeeded on screen without any expansion into a world beyond the apartment where it’s set.
Now the flip side. In spite of the dramatic and intense storyline, this film performs like an exercise in self-indulgence for Donovan. When penned by the actor portraying the main character who is so similar to himself, it's difficult to view the imagined personality as separate from the real-life man. Therefore, when Robert's fantasy is realized or he depends on his theatrical experience to survive his time with Gus, it feels a little like he's patting himself on the back.
Director: Martin Donovan
Starring: Martin Donovan, David Morse and Olivia Williams
Special features include: interviews with Martin Donovan and Olivia Williams. (Entertainment One)
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